A ferry packed with people going home for an Islamic festival capsized as they disembarked at a terminal in southern Bangladesh, leaving at least 18 dead and scores missing, authorities said on Saturday.

Some of the missing were feared trapped inside the ferry, local police officer Saiful Islam said.

Rescuers pulled 18 bodies - most of them children and women - from the sunken part of the ferry, Islam said.

Gas torches were used to cut open submerged cabins, and local residents joined police and fire brigade divers to search for survivors inside the ferry, he said.

The triple-deck ferry, M.V. Coco, was travelling on late Friday from Dhaka to the coastal town of Bhola and was crowded with people heading home to celebrate the Eid-ul-Azha festival, he said.

It tipped and its rear portion sank in the Tetulia River as many passengers scrambled to disembark at a terminal near Bhola, 64 miles (104 kilometers) south of Dhaka, witnesses said.

Anxious relatives searched for missing loved ones.

“I’m looking for my brother,” said Al Amin. “In all 10 of our family members were returning home for the Eid. All of us except my teenage brother survived.”

Amin said he and others jumped to the shore as the ferry started tilting at the terminal.

It was unclear how many people were on board when the boat capsized.

Dhaka’s private ETV television station said the ferry was carrying more than 1,500 people when it left Dhaka. It said many people had already disembarked when the accident occurred.

In Bangladesh, ferry authorities usually don’t keep passenger lists, making it difficult to know the exact number of passengers on board.


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